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Archive for the ‘internalized racism’ Category

2012-01-29_08-26-59_281

Internalized racism is where you are racist against your own race, even against  yourself! It is also called internalized oppression, internal colonization and the colonized mind. If you grow up in America as a person of colour it is hard to avoid: you are told in a thousand and one ways that “white is right” and that you are not – not just from white people, from school and television, but even by people of your own race, maybe even by your own family. You are brainwashed to see yourself like white people do, seeing yourself through the white lens.

Most people of colour know they are just as good as white people, but that has to be believed in the teeth of not just the racist messages that they get all the time but, even worse, those that were laid in their hearts when they were too young to understand. As Kenneth Clark’s doll experiments showed, internalized racism affects even six-year-olds. Most people will believe anything at some level if they hear it enough times. That is how ads on television work.

It can lead to shame, anger, confusion, self-hatred and self-doubt. Studies have shown that black Americans with high degrees of internalized racism are more likely to be violent, get fat, get diabetes, get high blood pressure and have unhappy marriages. That is not to say that it causes those things all by itself, but to point out that it has measurable effects (well, correlations). Internalized racism itself is measured by the degree to which you believe the white stereotypes about your race.

Some stuff that come from internalized racism:

  • colourism
  • “good hair”
  • “acting white”
  • skin lightening
  • “not being black enough”
  • wearing coloured contact lenses
  • Black women are ugly and disagreeable
  • Black men are no good and undependable
  • Life will be better if I act or look more like white people
  • That to be black you must act like the black people on television
  • That to be black you must have certain interests, tastes and beliefs

Most black people on television are acting out stereotypes. Even – or especially – on BET.

God does not make mistakes. God made you to look a certain way and gave you certain gifts to use in the course of your life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of it. Nothing. It is only narrow-minded, brainwashed people who want you to believe otherwise. Who want to make you think your eyes or nose or hair or lips or skin colour are no good, that there is something wrong with them. Who laugh at your interests and things you want to do because they do not “fit” your race and sex. Who think there is something wrong with you for just being you.

Internalized racism is partly why these statements are wrong:

  • “I have a black friend who says….”
  • racism = prejudice + power

And why this one is necessary:

  • “Black is beautiful”

See also:

Asians are supposed to be good at math and not rock the boa

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fanonFrantz Fanon (1925-1961) is a leading thinker of postcolonialism. Malcolm X, Che Guevara and Steve Biko read him. Fanon is best known for two of his books, “Black Skin, White Masks” (1952), about internalized racism, and “The Wretched of the Earth” (1961), about casting off colonialism.

Fanon, like Che Guevara and Malcolm X, was born in the 1920s and died young in the 1960s. And like them he fought and wrote against white power, which has ruled much of the world, at first directly through colonial empires in the 1800s and early 1900s, and then through its control of world banking, trade, television, education and so on.

For Fanon, gaining physical independence – kicking the white rulers out of your country – was only the first step. Because whites did more than simply rule – they also spread their language and thought and way of life. So even if you kick the white man out of your country, he is still in your head telling you that you are not as good as he is, that you are not whole, that there is something wrong with you, that you must become more like him. The colonized mind.

Fanon was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, then a colony of the French empire. He grew up in a well-to-do family and received a French education. At 17, during the middle of the Second World War, he ran away from home and sailed across the sea to fight  against Hitler with the French Resistance.

He fought in North Africa and later France itself. They would not let him cross into Germany – because he was black. They wanted to make it seem like only white soldiers won the war. And, even though he had fought for France, its white women would not dance with him – because he was black.

He won a scholarship and studied medicine and psychiatry in France. In 1953 he became the head of the largest psychiatric hospital in Algeria, which was then ruled by France.

At the hospital he saw how the white French doctors looked down the Arabs and would not give them proper care. He also found that helping one patient at a time was like trying to empty the sea with a spoon. Their “disease” was not anything he learned at school: it was colonialism.

And so, being the good doctor that he was, Fanon joined the FLN to fight against the French. He later edited its newspaper and talked to African leaders on its behalf.

Fanon did not live long enough to see the FLN win in the end. But while he laid on his deathbed in Bethesda, Maryland, dying of leukemia, he wrote his last book, “The Wretched of the Earth”, by speaking into a tape recorder. He said that since colonialism was built and maintained by violence then only by violence could it be destroyed. And violence not by the middle-class, which is too brainwashed by their masters, but by the poor.

He died at age 36.

See also:

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